Sunday, December 8th, 2019

Sustainable Egg hatched in Solent

Published on July 10, 2013 by   ·   No Comments

photographer Nigel Rigden www.nigrig (2)

© Nigel Rigden :

(Possibly) the world’s first water-borne artist’s studio is now in position on the Beaulieu Estuary in the Solent.  Designed to combine art, architecture and sustainability, the exquisite Exbury Egg is both a temporary home for artist Stephen Turner and a laboratory for studying the life of a tidal creek.

Project managed by SPUD (Space, Place-making and Urban Design), a local organisation led by Mark Drury and Phil Smith, the energy-efficient Exbury Egg is the perfect dwelling for Stephen Turner, a man who specialises in long-term artistic explorations of environmental settings.  Having worked alongside SPUD and been instrumental in the design of the Egg with PAD Studio (an award-winning Lymington-based architectural practice) Stephen will now spend a year making artworks inspired, influenced and informed by his Beaulieu surroundings and oversee the collating and collecting of data via the Egg’s integral storage and display areas.

photographer Nigel Rigden www.nigrig (3)

© Nigel Rigden :

A floating wooden pod moving up and down with the tide, the Exbury Egg was inspired by nesting birds on the seashore.  Built by local craftsman Paul Baker using age-old boat building techniques, the outer skin is a cold-moulded, reclaimed, untreated (except for epoxy resin below the water line to prevent water ingress) Western Red Cedar structure approximately six metres long and 2.8 metres in diameter.  Local Douglas Fir has been used for supporting ribs and internal framing – continuing in the tradition of timber marine construction on the Beaulieu River. The inner shell is reclaimed from various sources, including a timber shed, and coated with a layer of epoxy resin.

Inside, there is a bed (ok, hammock), desk, cupboards/lockers, charcoal burner for heating, small paraffin stove and wet room with solar shower (a bag of water heated in the sun) and portable camping loo, just enough for Stephen to live in a basic yet quirky fashion.  As the Egg is entirely off-grid, solar panels in a nearby field feed electricity to a laptop, phone and webcam.  Small LEDs provide light in winter, whilst in the summer the Egg will be illuminated by a large acrylic roof light.  With no running water, Stephen has to collect and transport from a nearby hosepipe.  Thankfully this is water off a duck’s back to Stephen, his work often involves spending long periods in odd abandoned places, noting the changes in the complex relationship between people and the natural environment.

photographer Nigel Rigden www.nigrig (1)

© Nigel Rigden :

Wendy Perring, Exbury Egg project architect, explains, “It was our intent to create a minimal impact live-work structure using materials with low embodied energy sourced within a twenty mile radius, and put together by a team of local craftsmen using centuries old techniques.  We want to test the minimum someone needs to live quite comfortably, and how we can minimise the impact on the environment.”

The smooth timber surface will take on the patina of 730 daily tides below the waterline and 365 days of weathering from wind, rain and bleaching by the beating (it’s the UK, “occasionally beating”) sun and the process will help to raise awareness of the importance of protecting beautiful yet sensitive places such as the Estuary.

Artist Stephen Turner adds, “My contribution to the design concept of the structure was its symbolic egg form, that will decay and change during my occupation; turning the egg into a calendar revealing the impact of 365 days of changing weather and tides upon its surface.  My idea is to show that nothing is forever and that understanding and welcoming such change should be part of our sustainable relationship with the rest of nature.”

photographer Nigel Rigden www.nigrig (4)

© Nigel Rigden :

The educational dimension of the project is of great importance to team Exbury Egg.  Schools and colleagues have been invited to visit, learn and watch and interactive social media keeps the wider local community in touch with Stephen’s (tethered) voyage of discovery.  This is not a romantic anti-modern back to nature project, where technology is rejected or spurned.  Instead it is about demanding the best and most efficient of the “new” to combine with the tried and tested “old”.

After Turner’s 12-month residency concludes in May 2014, the Exbury Egg will become a travelling exhibition, a part of a sculptural installation of the artist’s work shown in galleries across the country.




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